|"The Buttress" as seen from "Four Pines" to the south of "The Village"|
The Buttress is a big combo of some of the world's oldest gneiss, schist and gabbro that got buried and metamorphosed by heat and pressure and then had granitic and dioritic intrusions shoved through and around it. What you are left with is a very chaotic looking cliff face that is very very climbable. In all reality, The Buttress could have a crimp line bolted about every eight feet. Greg Collins, Teton uber-alpinist and author of many of the best sport routes on The Buttress once called it "a steep purified version of the alpine stone in the higher peaks of the Tetons". A very good description. The more I understand the buttress, the more routes I see on the many "Park" walls I look at.
This south facing cliff sees a lot of traffic in the summer months mostly for the excellent bolted routes and the very climbable moderates. I am averse to the heat and I avoid the cliff in the summer months. I'm also "lazy" and I want my Buttress to be ski in and ski out.
During the Winter of 2013/14, I was once again trying to find ways to still do some alpine climbing while sticking to home and tending to my one year old and family. This translated to finding activities that could be done in a half day. So, I decided to put my JHMR ski pass to good use and try dry-tooling one of the easier routes on the face. The first time I set out to climb it this way, Mike Werner joined me for a lap on "Chuck's Road to Thailand". We had a great time. I climbed the route again in boots and crampons with Mike Mock. I went back to the buttress a third and a fourth time that winter (aside from countless mini-trax laps). Visit three was with Nate Fuller to do "The School Route" this was a lousy dry tooling affair and we climbed the whole route with bare hands and in our ice boots with no spikes. Round four was an ascent of the Exum Arete with Josh Wagner and Brian Mulvehill. This route was not the best dry-tooling affair either (except for the last pitch which is killer) so we did the bottom 2/3 of the route in boots and bare hands again.
In the winter of 2014/2015, My steady ice/mountaineering partner, Sam Macke moved back to the valley from a stint in the Bay Area and we got after it. Our first foray was Chuck's Road to the last pitch of The Exum Arete and Sam on-sited the last pitch in dry tool mode. It was great. That day we skied past "The Big Slab" and decided right then and there that we would definitely climb that chossy, mossy, streaked wall and it would be fabulous.
|Sam on "Piton Country"|
Dry-tooling the rock routes on The Buttress in far from a new idea or new thing. At nearly forty years old, I am a relative "grom" in this scene. A few local hard-men who happen to be some of the best alpinists in the country have been tram-access tooling for many years. I am attempting to stand on their shoulders while very much looking up to them. One of those hard-men and author of many of the hardest rock routes up there told Sam that he left the big slab alone all these years cause it looks kind of junky. Thanks for saving it for us. Its perfect for Scottish style mixed routes.
The first new route we did was Piton Country. We climbed ground up on lead and drilled anchors at 30-meter increments. This route was pretty good though a little wandering. It is four short pitches and about M5/M6 the whole way. This route has the best potential to be an ice route of the three so far on the big slab.
The Red Route was the second route we put up last winter and it was a bit harder than its neighbor. This route is a straight rock climb though very tool-able. There are a few stretches of vertical, 5.10- crack climbing interspersed in a sea of excellent shattered metamorphosed granite. So far, this is my favorite of the three. I climbed it again a few weeks ago with Mike Mock and I got to lead the whole rig. It was super fun. I give the route a grade of M6+ 5.9+ and its really M7 if you do the last short burly pitch pictured below:
|start of pitch two (Super Trad) is a bit runout and a little hard--|
I froze ass on the belay after this lead-Doh!
Sam's and My third and final new route for the season was an exercise in progression and I'm glad we had done the other slab routes first as "Super Trad" turned out to be the hardest and most serious of the three. This route had the most direct and sustained stretches of vertical dry tooling and in a few spots it was a little sparse on pro. We called this route M6+. We drilled anchors and not lead bolts but for the route to be safe and enjoyable it needs about fifteen bolts added to it. Perhaps at some point we will fix it and change it's name to something else like maybe super-retro-ed..
|turns out "Effed" up old crampons are the best for rock climbing|
This whole tram-access alpine climbing obsession started out as a funny little way to do a little "training". Now it has become one of my main sources of climbing. After all the time I've spent hanging from tools on The Buttress I now feel so much more solid on rock and ice routes elsewhere. We are lucky to have this crag minutes from our doorsteps. I'll take the stink eye in the tramline any day in trade for some ski-in-ski-out Buttress.